Lebanese PM, ministers sign maritime claim decree

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister as well as the defense and public works ministers signed Monday a decree that officially expands Lebanon’s claim in its maritime border dispute with Israel.

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Public Works and Transport Minister Michel Najjar and caretaker Defense Minister Zeina Akar Adra signed the document that will formally lay claim to an additional 1,430 square kilometers on top of the Exclusive Economic Zone in disputed waters in the Mediterranean.

The document was refered to President Michel Aoun for his signature before being submitted to the United Nations to register the new coordinates.

“I expect it will be signed as everyone, the defense minister, the prime minister and the president are concerned about this,” Najjar told a news conference.

“We will not give up any inch of our homeland or a drop of its waters or an inch of its dignity,” he said.

Israel already pumps gas from huge offshore fields but Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Lebanon’s latest move would derail the talks rather than help work toward a common solution.

“Unilateral Lebanese measures will, of course, be answered with parallel measures by Israel,” he said in a statement.

Lebanon and Israel launched indirect talks, mediated by the US and UNIFIL back in October 2020, to discuss the maritime border dispute between the two countries.

The talks were a result of nearly a decade of US shuttle diplomacy efforts.

However, these short-lived talks were put on hold by Israel in December with no developments registered since.

US Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale is set to arrive in Beirut this week to meet with the Lebanese president and officials in a bid to revive these talks between the two sides.